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A helpful commentary on Exodus 12:1-2 with regards to calendars

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by George Antonios, Jan 22, 2021.

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  1. George Antonios

    George Antonios Well-Known Member

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    THE TEXT

    Exo 12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
    Exo 12:2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.


    THE SUM #1


    Contrary to popular opinion, the O.T. Jews did not follow a perfectly lunar calendar.

    THE EXPOSITION

    The Hebrew Biblical year contained 12 months of 30 days, totaling 360 days a year. The length of the month was based on the visible lunar cycle, which is about 30 days[1]. There are four principal lunar phases: the new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter (also known as third or final quarter), when the Moon's ecliptic longitude is at an angle to the Sun (as viewed from Earth) of 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270°, respectively. During the intervals between principal phases are intermediate phases, during which the Moon's apparent shape is either crescent or gibbous. On average, the intermediate phases last one-quarter of a synodic month, or 7.38 days – or about 1 week. Thus the 4 phases of the moon took about 4 weeks, or about 30 days, to complete. On average however, the visible lunar cycle took 29.5 days to complete – not 30 days – which resulted in a year of only 354 ½ days – less than 360 days – and even less than the 365-day solar calendar[2]. Therefore, roughly 4 weeks make 1 month. And roughly 12 months make 1 year. Since, however, the 12-month lunar year and the 365-day solar calendar do not overlap, the Gregorian solar calendar that has become the standard has months of unequal length that no longer correlate with the phases of the moon. But the Biblical calendar and its feasts were coordinated with the phases of the moon. This is of particular importance with feasts that fall on the new moon, like the feast of trumpets (Lev.23:23-25; Nu.10:10, 29:1-6). More so, since the 12-month lunar year is a few days shorter than a solar year, strict adherence to a lunar calendar would mean that the feasts would eventually take place at the wrong season, with, for example, the autumn harvest festival, falling in the early spring!

    “Twelve lunar months are about ten days short of a year, so a lunar calendar drifts roughly ten days earlier with respect to the seasons each year. A lunisolar calendar fixes this problem by inserting an intercalary month – nowhere mentioned in the scriptures – approximately every third year to bring the calendar back into alignment with the seasons. As with a lunar calendar, the months on a lunisolar calendar typically alternated between 29 and 30 days.”[3]

    “Keeping the lunar calendar coordinated with the seasons of the year required adding a 13th month – nowhere mentioned in the scriptures – to the lunar calendar seven out of every nineteen years. This additional month was added to the end of the year following the last month Adar, and was simply called Second Adar.”[4]

    There is a better view which is almost never heard, than to assume the Jews added an intercalary month about every three years. I now quote the relevant passage of Larry Pierce’s article on Bishop Ussher’s date of creation:

    “Is there any way that we can verify Ussher’s date for creation? There is a passage in Amos that is quite interesting. Around 800 BC Amos made the following prediction in Amos 8:9–10[5]: Amo 8:8 Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. Amo 8:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: Amo 8:10 And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.

    Many contend that the ancient Jews used a lunar calendar before the Babylonian captivity. If this is so, then Jewish feasts such as the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles would occur about the middle of the month around a full moon. You can never get a solar eclipse when the moon is full[6]! A lunar calendar would make the seasons drift by up to 30 days. Since the Levitical system was based on the agricultural cycle, you could very easily end up, in some years, celebrating the Feast of First Fruits after the entire crop had been harvested. At the other extreme, you might hold the feast before any crop was ready to harvest, which really makes a mockery of the feast. In order for this feast system to work reliably, you must follow the solar year so that the seasons start when they are supposed to and harvests occur about the same time each year. Ussher states on page 9 in the preface of his Annals of the World, ‘Moreover, we find that the years of our forefathers, the years of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, were the same length as the Julian year. It consisted of twelve months containing thirty days each. (It cannot be proven that the Hebrews used lunar months before the Babylonian captivity.) Five days were added after the twelfth month each year. Every four years, six days were added after the twelfth month.’ The testimony of so many ancient writers seems to confirm the antiquity (extreme age) of the use of the Julian year—that is, three hundred and sixty-five days with the addition of one extra day every four years. Hence, Ussher had very good reasons for selecting the length of the year that he did. In fact, modern scholarship recognizes this. In 1940 W. G. Waddell translated the works of Manetho, an Egyptian priest of the third century BC, and has the following translation for a portion of the work: ‘Saites added 12 hours to the month, to make its length 30 days; he added 6 days to the year, which thus comprised of 365 days.’ On this passage Waddell has the following footnote: ‘The addition of 5 days (not 6 as above) to the short year of 360 days was made long before the Hyksos age: it goes back to at least the Pyramid Age and probably earlier. The introduction of the calendar, making an artificial reconciliation of lunar and solar years, perhaps as early as 4236 BC, is believed to give the earliest fixed date of human history.’ What the writer is saying is that the calendar, which we now attribute to Julius Caesar, is of very early origin, and it likely dates back to the beginning of civilization. Ussher agrees and, by using the Bible, arrives at the date of 4004 BC for the beginning of civilization, not 4236 BC. (The point being made is that both agreed on the length of the year and that the Julian year is of great antiquity.)”[7]


    [1] 29.5 days is the synodic month’s length, whereas a sidereal month is 27.3 days long. The synodic lunar month is defined by the visible phases of the moon, with the length of a synodic lunar month ranging from 29.18 days to 29.93 days. The sidereal lunar month is defined by the Moon's full orbit with respect to the fixed stars. The length of a sidereal month is 27.321 days. There are other ways to calculate the lunar month, but the Bible’s month is the synodic month, the one identified by the naked eye.

    [2] A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the season, or almost equivalently to season, the apparent position of the Sun relative to the stars. The months of the Gregorian solar calendar do not correspond to cycles of the Moon phase.

    [3] Comments on Ussher’s Date of Creation

    [4] Jewish Calendar: Solar and Lunar - My Jewish Learning

    [5] The original quotes the NKJV, for which I have fittingly substituted the true words of God.

    [6] This assumes that Amos 8:8-10 is describing a mere eclipse, whereas the passage is a prophecy of the supernatural darkness that came over the land at noon while the Son of God hanged on a tree (Mt.27:45) during the feast of passover (the 15th day, not 14th).

    [7] The World: Born in 4004 BC?
     
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  2. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    I am not aware that the Bible directly says a month is 30 days, though it may be deduced from Revelation 11:2-3.
     
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  3. George Antonios

    George Antonios Well-Known Member

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    Will look into that. Thanks.
     
  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Also with the flood, it started on the 17th day of the second month. At the end of 150 days, the ark rested on the 17th day of the seventh month (Genesis 8:3-4). So 150 days ÷ 5 months = 30.
     
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